Summer Movie Review and Indiana Jones Marathon Thoughts

While there are still some movies that I think qualify as summer movies coming in the following weeks, most notably Dredd, since I don’t really plan on going to see any of them, I decided to look over the movies I watched over the last few months. Plus, I am excited to relate my recent experience going to see the entire Indiana Jones series on IMAX yesterday. I made fewer trips to the theater this year than I did last year. There were slightly fewer films I wanted to see, but also I was just unable to see all that I wanted to. The big omissions for me were Moonrise Kingdom, which looked excellent, and the Bourne Legacy, which I thought looked interesting. So I am going to rank the movies I saw this year from worst to best.

9: Amazing Spider-Man: I really didn’t care for the new Spider-Man. It doesn’t really have anything over the previous one, and has to cart around a mediocre villain.

8: Prometheus: This film was undeniably a mess, but it was an entertaining mess. I would consider watching it again, but the only thing I would guess it has to reveal is more plot holes.

7: The Three Stooges: This was actually pretty damn entertaining. The reason it is so low on my list is that I had forgotten I had seen it until I was nearly done with this list. So it is apparently forgettable.

6: Men in Black 3: This was some light and fluffy fun. Just like the first in this series, and unlike the unwatchable mess of the second. Definitely worth seeing.

5: Expendables 2: This was a flawed movie, but it’s exuberant display of testosterone was hard to really dislike.

4: Brave: Brave is not one of Pixar’s best, but it is far from the worst. It probably falls somewhere near the middle. Still, middle of the road Pixar is still great.

3: Avengers: The Avengers was nearly the perfect culmination of the last five years or so of Marvel movies. It feels a little empty at times, but it is perfectly fun.

2: John Carter: While it may not have been a financial success, John Carter was the best science fiction movie I’ve seen in years. It gets a little muddled in the middle, but Mars felt real.

1: The Dark Knight Rises: a great conclusion to a great series of films. This movie is everything anyone could want in a superhero movie. It is really just the best.

Yeah, not only is Avengers below Batman, but it isn’t even second. It wasn’t perfect.

On to Indy. Seeing the series was a wonderful experience. I’ve of course seen the movies before, (see here1, here2, here3 and here4) but I couldn’t resist seeing them all, save Kingdom, on the big screen for the first time. An IMAX big screen. As good as the Indiana Jones movies are, they are better on the big screen. Raiders of the Lost Arc is basically the perfect adventure movie. The Last Crusade is more of a comedy, but it is just as good, and if the theater I was in is anything to go by more of a crowd pleaser. Temple of Doom is very uneven, with some genuinely great moments and as many unbearably moments of Willie Scott screaming. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has some parts that are almost painful to watch (Tarzan) but for the most part is a solid entry in the series. At the cinema, everything seems bigger. The shadows in Raiders, the bridge in Temple, etc. Also, the bad special effects look even worse. Many think I am probably referring to Kingdom’s CGI, but that actually looks fine. Much better than nearly any effects shot in the previous three movies. I think the bad special effects are part of their charm, but the flaws that exists are even more apparent on a bigger screen. Raiders and Crusade are two of my all-time favorite movies, and I am glad I got to see them in a theater. The ticket cost 25 dollars, and it was probably the best 25 dollars I’ve ever spent.

The best movie going experience of the summer was the Indy marathon, but a wide margin. And the best new movie was The Dark Knight Rises, by an equally larger margin.

Video Game Archaeology 6: Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures

It is time for more Video Game Archaeology! Video Game Archaeology is my monthly exploration of an artifact video game found during my excavations of various bargain bins and yard sales; an examination of a game cast off and long forgotten. This month’s Video Game Archaeology entry is significantly less obscure than any of the previous ones. Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures is not exactly an unknown SNES game, though it is definitely not one of the systems most famous games. Still, it is a game based on one of the most popular film franchises ever. I, however, was wholly unaware of the game until it was released for Virtual Console a couple of years ago. I wasn’t shocked to discover that there had been an Indiana Jones SNES game, but it did stun me that I had managed to remain unfamiliar with it for all that time. At first this lead me to conclude that the game simply wasn’t very good. If was worth playing I would have heard about it. That changed when I noticed that nearly everyone who played had only good things to say about it. When I started doing my Indiana Jones movie reviews earlier this month, I finally decided to drop the 8 space dollars needed to download this and see for myself how good it was.

Boxart for Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures

Image via Wikipedia

Like Big Sky Trooper last month, Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures was from LucasArts and published, at least on the SNES, but JVC Musical Industries in 1994, though this was developed by Factor 5. Factor 5 is famous for the Star Wars Rogue Squadron games, though at the time they may have been famous for the Turrican series. Factor 5 and LucasArts had a long successful relationship, but Factor 5 disappeared a few years ago after the failure of Lair for the PS3.

Indy is a standard SNES action game, much like LucasArts’ Super Star Wars series, also for the SNES or Super Castlevania IV. The Castlevania comparison is an easy one, but they are not particularly similar. At least not more than any two SNES action games. They use the standard level progression and utilize passwords instead of saves, both those are just conventions of the genre. They do both share a primary weapon, the whip. In Castlevania it is a vital, versatile tool. In Indy the whip is much more limited. Especially when it comes to using the whip to swing around the stage. It is more fluid and more precise in Castlevania, while in Indy it feels sloppy and somewhat tacked on. Which is strange, because for the most part Indy controls much more fluidly than the arthritic Belmont.

Graphically, Indy is a nice looking game. Not mind-blowing, but a solid, competent SNES game. Apparently in a nice nod to the fact that Harrison Ford played both, Indy’s sprite is largely identical to the Hon Solo sprite from Super Return of the Jedi, though I haven’t played so I cannot confirm this. The music is a bit iffy. Sometimes it is spot on renditions of classic Indy music, sometimes it is kind of crappy renditions of classic Indy music.

As the name suggests, Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures provides playable versions of famous scenes from all three original Indy movies. Starting with the temple and boulder chase from Raiders of the Lost Arc. Each game has about 10 levels, give or take a few for a total of 28. I managed to play most of them thanks to my looking the passwords up online manly perseverance. It is about as accurate as a 2D action game version of a movie could hope to be. Sure there are some strange changes, like Walter Donovan’s skeleton after he chooses poorly being the final boss, but most of the stages are somewhat close to how you remember the scenes from the movies. There are a few Mode 7 stages, but I was not impressed.

Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures is a very good game, but it is hardly essential. The fact that so few good games have been made based on these film is baffling, since they are perfect for it. This SNES one is a game worth playing. Maybe not worth tracking down 20 years later, but since it is readily available on Virtual Console I recommend Indy fans give it a whirl, as well as those who appreciate a quality 2D action game.

You Call this Archaeology? Part 4 Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

So now, it is time for the last, at the present, of the Indiana Jones movies, the much-maligned Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I know a lot of people don’t like this movie and think it is a crime against the rest of the franchise if not cinema itself. Those people are wrong, and probably stupid. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, while not without its foibles and a few sour notes, is an excellent continuation of the series. It takes the impossible task of making a sequel after 20 years that still feels like the earlier films and not only succeeds, it turns the time gap into one of the films greatest strengths. I have two goals in this review. The first is to show why I like the movie so much. The second is to show how wrong you (the hypothetical you that dislikes this movie, because I‘m sure most people reading this are smart enough to see how awesome this movie is) are for hating it. Sounds easy to me.

Like with the rest of the movies, we can look to the opening scene for a statement of intent. In Raiders it was the Indy/Belloq rivalry, in Temple ‘Anything Goes’ and in Crusade it was Jones Sr./Jr. The opening scene in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a statement of intent for the rest of the film. Only it seems that most viewers were too distracted by CG prairie dogs to notice. The first sound heard is Elvis Presley’s Hound dog. That is important. It is one of the most famous songs from the ‘50’s and the film is trying to establish setting. It is the same as the shot of the mushroom cloud in a few minutes. This is Indiana Jones in the nuclear age. By this time, the pulp heroes of the ‘30’s that he is based on had disappeared. In their place rose Sci-Fi movies and creature features. Concerns over the dangers and opportunities presented by new science trumped interest in mysticism and the occult. Indy no longer belongs. The world that exists in 1956 is not the world of 1936. Seeing the mushroom cloud in Indy’s brave new world moment. Such people fill this world as Mac, Indy’s treacherous supposed friend and the villainous Irina Spalko with her interest in pseudo-science. We also get the message that while the world has changed, Indy hasn’t. He is still quick with a supposedly witty quip or an opportunistic escape.

The sticking point for people seems to be Indy’s escape from a nuclear explosion via refrigerator. It is patently ridiculous. Much like him being drug for a few miles behind a truck on rough terrain. Or escaping a crashing plane in a life raft. Judging an Indiana Jones movie on realism is flatly refusing to entertain the film on its terms. I can only assume that the people who decided that this scene was where suspension of disbelief was irrevocably broken has never went back an examined the plausibility of the previous films. The unbelievability is a feature, not a bug and it has been that way since Raiders of the Lost Ark. I agree that in some cases, it crosses the line of acceptance, like most of Temple of Doom, and I’ll agree, grudgingly, that the fridge scene fits that bill. It is but a small thing, and an unimportant one to boot. (Also, the fridge was lead lined, what more do you want?) The important thing is the mushroom cloud. That is the image that should dominate Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

One of the biggest reasons I like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull so much is that it is the only Indian Jones sequel. It is the only one of the movies to pick up on theme’s and characters from previous movies and advance them. In fact, it plus Raiders and Crusade tie together to make an effective trilogy. Temple of Doom can safely be ignored. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the story of Indiana’s romance of Marian Ravenwood, but neither appears or is mentioned in Last Crusade. Something must have happened to them in between, and the films’ chronology places 2 years between the two movies. It also has Indy chafing against the bureaucracy of government agencies. He is willing to risk life and limb to help them and they are more than willing to deny him his prize. The Last Crusade is about Indy fixing his relationship with his father, about both of them realizing the importance of family. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ties those two ideas together. While Indy was preserving one family, he was ignoring another. The lessons he learned in the third movie help Indy resolve his problems from the third.

And we get a stupendous motorcycle chase with Shia LaBeouf looking exactly like Marlon Brando in the Wild One. Now an old man, Indy’s backseat dialogue mirrors his father’s. It is also why the reveal that Indy is Mutt’s dad is not much of a surprise at all. The movie could be any plainer about what was going on. For the next hour of so the adventure is as fresh and pop-y as it ever was. A breathless rush around the world, with only the most tenuous claim archaeological research.

Sticking point number 2 for many people is that the maguffin leads to aliens and not some religious mystical discovery. Frankly, this complaint is asinine. As I alluded to earlier, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is deliberately echoing the zeitgeist of ‘50s, which means aliens and monsters. Indy is still the pulp hero from the 30s, but it is not the 30s anymore. The early parts of the film use a hammer to establish the time period, with popular music of the time and references to greasers and McCarthyism. It is brilliant, placing the pulp hero in a different milieu. Drawing the line at the existence of aliens, period, in the world seems a strange choice, since no one had problems with the veracity of Hindu death cults, the powers of the Ark of the Covenant or meeting immortals thanks to drinking from the actual Holy Grail. The Sci-Fi twist is one that makes perfect sense for what Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is doing. Same goes for the giant ants. They fit in perfectly with a crazy sci-fi adventure. This is why the Mutt as Tarzan scene fails so terribly. That obvious reference flat doesn’t fit in the rest of the movie. It is jarring and definitely strains suspension of disbelief. Luckily, it last all of 1 minute.

There are several one those jarring moments in Kingdom. Not as many as in Temple of Doom, but enough that it doesn’t rise to the level of Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Last Crusade. Those are two the best adventure movies of all time, Kingdom isn’t near that level. But it is not the unholy abortion that people want to make it seem. It is a good, very good even, adventure movie. It is certainly better than any entry in the genre since the Last Crusade. (I would love to be proved wrong about this, by the way. Just don’t say National Treasure or I’ll laugh in your face then push you down.) All that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull needs to be enjoyed is a willingness to engage it on its own terms. A willingness not to go in wanting exactly Raiders of the Lost Ark again. An open mind. Too bad that seems too tall a task to ask of most viewers.

You Call this Archaeology? Part 3 The Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

I’ve said that Raiders of the Lost Ark is a perfect adventure movie, a movie that will never be surpassed. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade equals it. I honestly cannot say which film I like better, usually it is the one I last saw. Unlike Temple of Doom, which tried to top it predecessor with a darker tone, slapstick and shocks, the Last Crusade aims for lighter tone and is a more character based experience. Raiders and even Temple are movies about what Indiana Jones does, The Last Crusade is a movie about who Indiana Jones is and why.

The first two films open with the ending of Indiana’s previous adventure that leads into his next one. It gives him a sense of continuous motion, that he is always on an adventure and this is just the one we happen to get to see. They were both great scenes and perfectly laid out the focus of the rest of the movie, either Indy’s rivalry with Belloq in Raiders or Anything goes in Temple. In Last Crusade we do not get the end of Indy’s previous adventure, at least not at first. Instead, it is an almost too perfect origin story for all of the famous Indiana Jones traits. How did he come to wield a bullwhip, fear snakes and wear the hat? It is all shown right there. The most important part of the scene is what is conspicuously not shown, Indy’s father. By making the short scene with his father part of their intentional Indiana Jones origin, it tries to show him as important an aspect of the character as any of the other things shown during the opening. But if Henry Jones, Sr. is vital to Indy’s story, where has he been for the first two movies? That is the question that Last Crusade asks and answers.

The action in Last Crusade is if anything less amazing or fantastic than Raiders of the Lost Ark, let alone Temple of Doom. That is not to say it is lacking, but it is more mundane. And like the rest of the movies it is still excellently shot. There is clearly a lessened focus on making the action shocking and more on making it fun. The lighter tone comes through in Last Crusade’s focus on humor. Even the big action scenes are laced with humor. Humor that comes naturally from the characters, not forced slapstick. The early escape and chase scenes are not quite as well done as Raiders’ big car chase, but they are as close as I’ve ever seen. The big showdown with the Nazi’s and their tanks near the end is possibly my favorite scene from any movie. It is all that is great about the Indiana Jones series compounded into twenty perfect minutes.

Where the last movie faltered badly, Indy’s companions, the Last Crusade shines even above the first. It brings back Sallah and Brody and gives them more time to define themselves. Ilsa is probably the best of Indiana’s love interests, being both a believable romantic interest and the closest any of the later movies gets to a Belloq replacement. While her knowledge doesn’t match Indy’s like Belloq’s did, she shows herself to be tolerably competent in the field and much more personally dangerous to Indy. All that dances around what truly elevates Last Crusade above most films. The presence of a star to rival Harrison Ford.

Sean Connery as Henry Jones, Sr. makes The Last Crusade. The damaged, nearly broken relationship between the Doctors Jones is what drives the film, and the elder one had to match Ford on screen and Connery absolutely does. In every other situation Indiana Jones is the man. He is the that everyone looks to to solve their problems. He is often exasperated and tired, but he is never at a loss. He always has an idea if not a plan. Around his father he reverts to Junior. To his father he is still a child, always a child. Indy’s actions in this movie are to prove his manhood to his father, to earn his respect. To earn his recognition. All he wants is to earn his father’s notice.

Henry Jones, Sr. is blinded by his quest enough to not even realize how close he is to losing his son. Even through their trip to Berlin he barely acknowledges his son. It is best seen in the motorcycle chase, with Indy’s proud smile being stopped by his father’s disapproving stare, except when he takes down one via joust. That earns him a brief smile. It is all about the grail to him. Until the tank scene, that is. Until he truly sees Indy in action as Indy he is always Junior to his father. During that scene, his truly realizes how capable his son is. When he thinks Indy has gone over the cliff he is finally forced to realize how broken their relationship is. It all culminates at the end when his father finally calls him Indiana, an admission that he is a man.

What makes Crusade so good is that every thing feels so natural. From Jones, Sr. constant casual dismissal of his son to Brody’s complete inability to function in the real world to the marvelous, kinetic and funny action scenes. Much of the slapstick in Temple felt forced and out of place, constantly testing the viewers sense of disbelief. The lighter tone of Crusade makes it fit with much more fluidity. It is the family film version, both in that it is about the Jones family and that it is meant for families. The Last Crusade can’t match Raiders of the Lost ark in straight adventure. If it tried it could never feel like more than a pale imitation. So instead it makes a different experience. While Raiders was a somewhat humorous adventure movie, the Last Crusade goes full on adventure/comedy. The humor is no longer a pleasant side effect of Harrison Ford being so charismatic, but it is given weight equal, or at least much closer to equal, to the action. The adjustment of that balance makes Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade a different experience but an equal one to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

You Call This Archaeology? Part 2 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Welcome back to my week long re-watch of the best series of films to ever be released in American Cinemas, in my humble opinion at least.  Today I’m reviewing what in my opinion is the weakest of the Indiana Jones movies, though even at that is a mostly enjoyable 2 hour adventure.

Raiders of the Lost ArK gets almost everything right, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom messes it all up. Still, it is a hard movie to hate. The problem is that it is impossible not to compare it to the rest of the series and it cannot hold up to that comparison. To Lucas and Spielberg’s credit and the movie’s detriment, they didn’t simply rehash Raiders. Temple of Doom is darker and despite being built around some supposedly cut Raiders’ set pieces more ambitious than the first movie. Unfortunately, its reach was beyond its grasp.

The first and biggest problem with Temple of Doom is its attempts to top Raiders of the Lost ArK. The attempts to make this one bigger pushes it beyond the limits of believability, both in the narrative itself and in the special effects. Indy’s feats were on the outer cusp of believability in Raiders, possible if improbable. With Temple possible is thrown right out of the window. Part of that is the tone of the film sung to the viewer in the opening musical number. Anything goes. (If you don’t enjoy the musical number this is definitely the wrong movie for you.) That holds throughout the movie. Anything goes in terms of what Indy is capable of. Have Indy jump out of a falling airplane on an inflatable life raft into a waterfall? Sure, why not. Anything goes. Too bad the special effects couldn’t quite make it believable. Indy’s greatest strength is in his humanity. That his adventures, while exotic and amazing, are within his abilities. The situations do not have to be even remotely believable. The magic stones and Indian murder cults are not this movie’s problems. Its biggest flaw is that often I do not believe that Indy could do what he is doing. Which is not that frequent, but it happens. Like the crash scene I mentioned already. He occasionally gets pushed out beyond his capabilities by the movies attempt to top Raiders. And while Raiders has the face melting scene, Temple of Doom is filled with effects that have aged poorly.

Anything goes with the tone as well. The villains are more visibly villainous, probably because no one need to be told how evil Nazi’s are. There are murders from the opening minutes. Not death by ancient trap, but actual murders. This movie is notably and intentionally darker than the rest of the series. It is right there in the title Temple of Doom. It is about Indiana Jones breaking up a child slavery ring. While it is darker, it is also goofier. Indy’s two sidekicks are wholly comic relief. Short Round is mostly enjoyable as Indy’s young double, though it has uncomfortable racist overtones. Willy Scott is a crime against the rest of this film. Marian was capable, if in over her head. Willy is completely out of place and wholly unlikable. She undermines the movies attempts to set up a central family dynamic among the three protagonists. She is even more of a child than Short Round. By the end of the film, the viewer is supposed to believe that they have grown together into a believable family unit, but the relationship between Indy and Willy never feels real. Indy and Short Round, however, become a very believable father/son duo. The setting and subject are much darker than the rest of the series, but it is counter by increasingly jokey and forced humor. Nowhere is the divide more visible than in the dinner scene at Pankot. While Indiana tries to get to the bottom of the rumors of the stolen stone and the rise of the Thuggee cult, Willy and Short Round face a farcical array of disgusting looking food. One side of the table is dark and mysterious, the other if filled with bad gross out jokes. Anything goes, no matter how schizophrenic it makes the experience.

While there are failures in tone and effect, they do not overwhelm the quality of the adventure. The opening scene in Shanghai is nearly perfect; from the song and dance routine to the chaotic shoot out to the car chase, it is a scene worthy of the best of the series. Once they get into the Temple, the movie picks up. Indy’s forcible induction into the Thuggee cult, through the Black sleep of Kali (reminiscent of Hot Potting from Rider Haggard’s She, though less murderous), lays it on a bit strong. It manages to continue the tone of being both startlingly dark and laughably silly at the same time. Telling, perhaps, is that Indy is saved by Short Round, not Willy. There is no chemistry between Indy and Willy; I can easily believe that the thought of sending her to her death wouldn’t snap him out of it. However, when Short Round arrives he does manage to snap Indy out of it. Those two have a connection that Willy doesn’t share.

The last half hour of Temple is a whirlwind that, aside from some badly aged special effects, is on par with Raiders. The freeing of the slave children is Indy at his put upon finest. From then on the film gets away from the purely dark and purely silly and is purely fun. The mine-cart chase sequence and the iconic confrontation on the bridge are both excellent scenes. They are bigger in scope than anything in the previous movie, but that doesn’t work to their advantage.

In all Temple of Doom is a flawed film. Indy is not quite the same character as he is in the rest of the series. He is more cynical and seems greedier. It feels as though Ford is playing Han Solo instead of Indiana Jones. The combination of the poorly conceived sidekicks, more Willy than Short Round, and the badly aged special effect keep this film from matching the rest of the series. As a simple adventure movie, it is fine. Slightly too dark for kids and slightly too silly for adults, but a reasonably pleasant ride for all that. Unfortunately, it is hard to view this movie without comparing it to its predecessor and sequels. In that light, it simply cannot hold up. Being the weakest film in an excellent series is the worst one can say about Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, but that is enough to get it damned in most circles.

You Call This Archaeology? Part 1: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark

I usually try to keep a sizable variety of post topics here. Yeah, last week I had three posts about comic books, but that was mostly an anomaly. This week I had several posts planned. My usual quick post about what video game I’ve been playing, my book reviews for last month and maybe something about how stupid Mizzou going to the SEC would be were all ready to go. Sometime late last week, however, I decided, “screw that, I’m going to write about Indiana Jones.” Why you may, but probably didn’t, ask? Because it is almost my birthday, and around my birthday I like to watch some of my favorite movies. The Indiana Jones movies are some of my best-loved movies, and are frequently watched around my place. So, this week I am going to review all four Indy movies. Starting today with my thoughts on Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Spoilers: I like Raiders a whole lot.)

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a perfect adventure movie. There is no film in the genre that can touch it. It is terse and action packed, fun but not stupid. This first one is particularly focused, with some but little of the slapstick humor that would come later. It is the only film in the series with a believable love story. While Indy visits large portions of the globe, it is tightly plotted and steams from start to finish without ever losing momentum. In short, it is everything an adventure movie should be.

Much of lure for this film, and the whole series, lies in its hero. Indiana Jones is the possibly the greatest character to ever appear on screen. He is simultaneously larger than life and believably human. Indy does amazing things, like out run a giant boulder and hijack trucks filled with Nazis single-handedly, but doing so is visibly difficult for him. His feats are a struggle, they leave him physically drained and damaged. He doesn’t win because he is smarter, though he often is. He doesn’t win because he is stronger, though he sometimes is. Indy wins because he perseveres. He will not, cannot quit. It is primarily his struggles that make him appealing. The other part of his appeal is Harrison Ford. Indiana Jones is nowhere close to a wholly original character. He is a throwback to pulp heroes like Doc Savage and Allen Quartermain (I don’t think Quartermain actually counts as a pulp hero, but the intent is the same.) There is even a dash of Superman in there with his mild mannered Dr. Jones who, with a change of hats, becomes the unstoppable Indiana. Ford infuses Indy with a perfect roguish charm, alternately exasperated and amused by what he encounters. There is not movie star from the last 30 years that has charisma like Ford. Even when he is sleepwalking through a movie, he is still eminently watchable. Raiders of the Lost Arc, and the rest of the Indiana Jones films, feature Harrison Ford at his best.

The part of this movie that shines above the rest is in its villain. Rene Belloq is the only true rival Indiana Jones faces in any of his movies. Belloq claims that he and Indy are alike, but that is far from true. Their goals and their skills are similar, but their methods and outlooks are wholly different. Belloq is cynical, he is ruthless. As long as he achieves his goal there is no deal he won’t make or break. Indy is an idealist, he has limits. A big visible difference is in whom they ally themselves with. Indy has friends, from Marian to Sallah to Jock with his plane at the beginning. Belloq has tools that he uses to achieve his goals. There is no trust between Belloq and the Nazis, just like there is none between him and the Hovitos (?) at the beginning. He has constructed his relationship with them to last as long as it is convenient. Indy has to rely on his partners, and sometimes they let him down.

The conflict between Indiana Jones and Belloq is established wonderfully in the opening scene. We see Indy do all the work to find the idol, but Belloq comes in with an army and takes it from him. “Dr. Jones. Again we see that there is nothing you can possess that I cannot take away” is likely Belloq’s most famous line. That right there is the conflict that drives the movie. The Nazi’s are but window dressing, not important other than to have someone to fight. Belloq is whom Indy is truly at war with. Over everything. Belloq tries to seduce Marian not because he is attracted to her, or at least not only for that, but because she is with Indy. Belloq employs an army of Nazi’s to find the ark, using his expertise, of course. Indy digs with a small crew right under his nose to get it first. Note how Indy gets down and dirty to help with the actual digging; Belloq seems to believe that he is above that.

Their rivalry drives the movie to its conclusion, when Belloq opens the arc. There we see Belloq’s true cynicism and Indy’s romanticism. Unlike the Nazis, Belloq believes in the Ark’s power, but he doesn’t fully believe in it. He thinks he can control it, that he can master it. Indy does believe in the power of the Ark and knows the dangers it represents. He is romantic enough to believe in the mystical power of ancient artifacts, and wary enough to believe that power poses a threat. Belloq believes he is untouchable and that is his downfall.

There is no real point in going over the plot of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Nearly every scene is iconic, from the rolling boulder in the opening temple to the melting faces at the end. My personal favorite is the whole truck hijacking scene. It is perfect. The whole movie is nearly perfect. This is the gold standard for adventure movies.